District Court Judge Susan N. Burke ordered Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan to obey a Minneapolis ordinance requiring him to discipline police officers based on the adjudication of the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority (CRA). The May 5 order states that if Dolan does not follow Ordinance 172.130 (see sidebar for text), he must appear in court again on June 4 to explain why he has not done so.
The order comes about as a result of a writ of mandamus filed in February by former CRA member Dave Bicking and Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB). Bicking was on the CRA board at the time he filed the writ. Around the same time, a feud was brewing between Bicking and CRA chair Don Bellfield. Bellfield asked Bicking to resign for criticizing Dolan at a January 26 community meeting. In April, the Minneapolis City Council voted not to re-appoint Bicking to another term on the CRA Board.
A writ of mandumus basically means an order to an official person to perform his or her duty. The writ filed by Bicking and Gross in February was directed at both Dolan and CRA chair Don Bellfield. The petitioners stated that Bellfield had not informed the city council of Dolan’s lack of compliance with the CRA ordinance. Bicking and Gross filed the writ to “force Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan to discipline cases sustained by the CRA” and to force Bellfield to file a notice to the City Council’s executive committee “regarding Chief Dolan’s repeated violations of the CRA ordinance,” according to a CUAPB press release.
172.130. Disciplinary decision.
(a) Upon conclusion of the hearing and request for reconsideration process, the review authority shall forward the investigatory file, the findings of fact and the panel determination to the chief of police. The chief’s disciplinary decision shall be based on the adjudicated facts as determined by the civilian review authority board, and shall not include a de novo review of the facts by the Minneapolis Police Department’s internal affairs unit or any other police officer, unit, or division.
In cases where the civilian review authority board has determined that specific facts constitute a violation of the Minneapolis Police Department policy and procedure manual, under no circumstances should the Minneapolis Police Department internal affairs unit or any other police officer, unit, or division be allowed to alter, augment, or revise the designation.
(b) In all cases where the review authority sustained the complaint, the chief of police shall do one of the following within thirty (30) days (except where noted) of receipt of the case from the review authority:
(1) Impose discipline and notify the review authority in writing that discipline has been imposed; or
(2) Determine that no discipline will be imposed and notify the review authority in writing of such determination and the reasons for such determination; or
(3) Make a one time written request that the review authority reconsider the sustained finding; or
(4) Submit in writing to the review authority a request for an extension of time, not to exceed an additional thirty (30) days, to take one of the actions in subparagraphs (1) through (3) with a statement of the reason for the extension and a proposed date by which one of such actions will be taken.
If the chief has determined that no discipline will be imposed pursuant to subparagraph (2), the review authority may require the chief (or his/her designee) to appear at a meeting of the full board, which shall be closed to the public pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Section 13D.05, subdivision 2, to discuss the basis for the determination.
If the chief has requested that the review authority reconsider a sustained finding, the chief or his/her designee shall appear before the entire review authority board to present the factual and legal basis on which the chief asserts that the complaint(s) should be not sustained. After the review authority has reconsidered the matter, the decision of the review authority shall be provided to the chief in writing. If the review authority again determines that the complaint(s) should be sustained, the chief may then take one of the actions specified in subparagraphs (1), (2) or (4), above.
(c) The review authority shall provide notice to the complainant of the final disciplinary decision.
(d) The level of compliance with this section shall be included as an element of the chief’s annual performance evaluation, pursuant to section 172.60(h) of this section. The civilian police review authority chairperson shall notify the executive committee of the chief’s failure to comply with the requirements of this section, and such failure may subject the chief to disciplinary action. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-0r-028, §§ 18, 19, 3-21-03; 2006-Or-114, § 3, 10-20-06)
The ordinance in question, 172.130, was, according to City Council Cam Gordon’s blog, introduced by Council Member Betsy Hodges in 2006. It states: “The chief’s disciplinary decisions shall be based on the adjudicated facts as determined by the civilian review authority board, and shall not include a de novo review of the facts by the Minneapolis Police Department’s internal affairs unit or any other police officer, unit or division.”
Basically this means that the Chief is supposed to discipline police officers based on the CRA’s findings. He’s not supposed to do his own separate investigation of the facts.
The purpose of the CRA is to investigate and makes determinations regarding complaints brought against any Minneapolis police officer, according to its website.
When a complaint is investigated by the CRA, the hearing panel makes a determination whether or not to sustain the complaint within 30 days of the hearing. If the complaint is sustained, the matter is referred to the Chief of Police who will decide whether or not to impose discipline. When the Chief has made his decision, he must provide his reasons in writing to the mayor and the CRA.
In December, the CRA published a performance review of Chief Dolan covering 2008 and the first three quarters of 2009. According to the report, most sustained cases that the CRA has submitted to the chief have not led to discipline. The report states:
During the evaluation period, the CRA has received discipline decisions from the MPD on 25 cases that were sustained. In only 3 cases (12%) was any discipline imposed on the officers involved. 4 Some cases involve more than one officer. Of the 37 officers who were found by the CRA to have engaged in misconduct, 5 officers (14%) were disciplined: three received letters of reprimand, two received oral reprimands.
The report also indicates (In Appendix B) that the CRA does not approve a majority of the complaints. The report’s statistics show that during an evaluation period involving 55 cases, 60% of them were not sustained by the CRA board.
Dolan’s next hearing will take place on June 4 at 8:30 a.m. at courtroom 757 at the Hennepin County Government Center, where he will be expected to explain why he did not follow the ordinance.
Meanwhile, Don Bellfield’s next appearance in court won’t be scheduled until late next fall. Bellfield has been ordered by the same judge to explain why he hasn’t fulfilled his duty in reporting Dolan’s lack of compliance to city council.